The right to petition afforded by the First Amendment allows one to contact the government without fear of retaliation for the sole reason of contacting them. Common issues addressed by these cases include contacting one’s government in order to express an opinion or to complain.

Opinions & Commentaries

Overruled

This case comes here with a certificate by the judges of the Circuit Court for the District of Louisiana that they were divided in opinion upon a question which occurred at the hearing. It presents for our consideration an indictment containing sixteen counts, divided into two series of eight counts each, based upon sect. 6 of the Enforcement Act of May 31, 1870. That section is as follows:—"That if two or more persons shall band or conspire together, or go in disguise upon the public highway, or upon the premises of another, with intent to violate any provision of this act, or to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any citizen, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise and enjoyment of any right or privilege granted or secured to him by the constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having exercised the same, such persons shall be held guilty of felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be fined or imprisoned, or both, at the discretion of the court, — the fine not to exceed $5,000, and the imprisonment not to exceed ten years; and shall, moreover, be thereafter ineligible to, and disabled from holding, any office or place of honor, profit, or trust created by the constitution or laws of the United States." 16 Stat. 141.

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This case originated in companion suits by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Inc. (NAACP), and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (Defense Fund), brought in 1957 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The suits sought to restrain the enforcement of Chapters 31, 32, 33, 35 and 36 of the Virginia Acts of Assembly, 1956 Extra Session, on the ground that the *418 statutes, as applied to the activities of the plaintiffs, violated the Fourteenth Amendment. A three-judge court convened pursuant to 28 U. S. C. ง 2281, after hearing evidence and making fact-findings, struck down Chapters 31, 32 and 35 but abstained from passing upon the validity of Chapters 33 and 36 pending an authoritative interpretation of these statutes by the Virginia courts.[1] The complainants thereupon petitioned in the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond to declare Chapters 33 and 36 inapplicable to their activities, or, if applicable, unconstitutional. The record in the Circuit Court was that made before the three-judge court supplemented by additional evidence. The Circuit Court held the chapters to be both applicable and constitutional. The holding was sustained by the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals as to Chapter 33, but reversed as to Chapter 36, which was held unconstitutional under both state and federal law.[2] Thereupon the Defense Fund returned to the Federal District Court, where its case is presently pending, while the NAACP filed the instant petition. We granted certiorari, 365 U. S. 842.[3] We heard argument in the 1961 Term *419 and ordered reargument this Term. 369 U. S. 833. Since no cross-petition was filed to review the Supreme Court of Appeals' disposition of Chapter 36, the only issue before us is the constitutionality of Chapter 33 as applied to the activities of the NAACP.There is no substantial dispute as to the facts; the dispute centers about the constitutionality under the Fourteenth Amendment of Chapter 33, as construed and applied by the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to include NAACP's activities within the statute's ban against "the improper solicitation of any legal or professional business."The NAACP was formed in 1909 and incorporated under New York law as a nonprofit membership corporation in 1911. It maintains its headquarters in New York and presently has some 1,000 active unincorporated branches throughout the Nation. The corporation is licensed to do business in Virginia, and has 89 branches there. The Virginia branches are organized into the Virginia State Conference of NAACP Branches (the Conference), an unincorporated association, which in 1957 had some 13,500 members. The activities of the Conference are financed jointly by the national organization and the local branches from contributions and membership dues. NAACP policy, binding upon local branches and conferences, is set by the annual national convention.

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372 U.S. 522 (1963) FIELDS ET AL. v. SOUTH CAROLINA.   No. 399. Supreme Court of United States.   Decided March 18, 1963. ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF SOUTH CAROLINA.Jack Greenberg, Constance Baker Motley, Matthew J. Perry and Lincoln C. Jenkins, Jr. for petitioners. Daniel R. McLeod, Attorney General of South Carolina, Everett N. Brandon, Assistant Attorney General, and Julian S. Wolfe for respondent. PER CURIAM. The petition for writ of certiorari is granted. The judgment of the Supreme Court of South Carolina is vacated and the case is remanded for consideration in light […]

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The Virginia State Bar brought this suit in the Chancery Court of the City of Richmond, Virginia, *2 against the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, an investigator employed by the Brotherhood, and an attorney designated its "Regional Counsel," to enjoin them from carrying on activities which, the Bar charged, constituted the solicitation of legal business and the unauthorized practice of law in Virginia.[1] It was conceded that in order to assist the prosecution of claims by injured railroad workers or by the families of workers killed on the job the Brotherhood maintains in Virginia and throughout the country a Department of Legal Counsel which recommends to Brotherhood members and their families the names of lawyers whom the Brotherhood believes to be honest and competent. Finding that the Brotherhood's plan resulted in "channeling all, or substantially all," the workers' claims to lawyers chosen by the Department of Legal Counsel, the court issued an injunction against the Brotherhood's carrying out its plan in Virginia. The Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia affirmed summarily over objections that the injunction abridges the Brotherhood's rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, which guarantee freedom of speech, petition and assembly. We granted certiorari to consider this constitutional question in the light of our recent decision in NAACP v. Button, 371 U. S. 415.[2] 372 U. S. 905.

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The Illinois State Bar Association and others filed this complaint to enjoin the United Mine Workers of America, District 12, from engaging in certain practices alleged to constitute the unauthorized practice of law. The essence of the complaint was that the Union had employed a licensed attorney on a salary basis to represent any of its members who wished his services to prosecute workmen's compensation claims before the Illinois Industrial Commission. The trial court found from facts that were not in dispute that employment of an attorney by the association for this purpose did constitute unauthorized practice and permanently enjoined the Union from "[e]mploying attorneys on salary or retainer basis to represent its members with respect to Workmen's Compensation claims and any and all other claims which they may have under the statutes and laws of Illinois."[1] The *219 Illinois Supreme Court rejected the Mine Workers' contention that this decree abridged their freedom of speech, petition, and assembly under the First and Fourteenth Amendments and affirmed. We granted certiorari, 386 U. S. 941 (1967), to consider whether this holding conflicts with our decisions in Railroad Trainmen v. Virginia Bar, 377 U. S. 1 (1964), and NAACP v. Button, 371 U. S. 415 (1963).

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441 U.S. 463 (1979) SMITH ET AL. v. ARKANSAS STATE HIGHWAY EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 1315, ET AL.         No. 78-1223. Supreme Court of United States.    Decided April 30, 1979. ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT.PER CURIAM.In grievance proceedings initiated by employees of the Arkansas State Highway Department, the State Highway Commission will not consider a grievance unless the employee submits his written complaint directly to the designated employer representative. The District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas found that this procedure denied the union representing […]

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444 U.S. 453 (1980) SECRETARY OF THE NAVY ET AL. v. HUFF ET AL.     No. 78-599. Supreme Court of United States.    Argued November 6, 1979. Decided January 21, 1980. CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT.Kent L. Jones argued the cause pro hac vice for petitioners. On the briefs was Solicitor General McCree.Alan Dranitzke argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief was David Addlestone. PER CURIAM. The question in this case is whether Navy and Marine Corps regulations violate 10 U. S. C. § 1034 by requiring […]

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The State of Minnesota authorizes its public employees to bargain collectively over terms and conditions of employment. It also requires public employers to engage in official exchanges of views with their professional employees on policy questions relating to employment but outside the scope of mandatory bargaining. If professional employees forming an appropriate bargaining unit have selected an exclusive representative for mandatory bargaining, their employer may exchange views on nonmandatory subjects only with the exclusive representative. The question presented in these cases is whether this restriction on participation in the nonmandatory-subject exchange process violates the constitutional rights of professional employees within the bargaining unit who are not members of the exclusive representative and who may disagree with its views. We hold that it does not.

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We granted certiorari to decide whether the Petition Clause of the First Amendment provides absolute immunity to a defendant charged with expressing libelous and damaging falsehoods in letters to the President of the United States.

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After petitioner borough fired respondent Guarnieri as its police chief, he filed a union grievance that led to his reinstatement. When the borough council later issued directives instructing Guarnieri how to perform his duties, he filed a second grievance, and an arbitrator ordered that some of the directives be modified or withdrawn. Guarnieri then filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the directives were issued in retaliation for the filing of his first grievance, thereby violating his First Amendment “right . . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”; he later amended his complaint to allege that the council also violated the Petition Clause by denying his request for overtime pay in retaliation for his having filed the § 1983 suit. The District Court instructed the jury, inter alia, that the suit and the grievances were constitutionally protected activity, and the jury found for Guarnieri. Affirming the compensatory damages award, the Third Circuit held that a public employee who has petitioned the government through a formal mechanism such as the filing of a lawsuit or grievance is protected under the Petition Clause from retaliation for that activity, even if the petition concerns a matter of solely private concern. In so ruling, the court rejected the view of every other Circuit to have considered the issue that, to be protected, the petition must address a matter of public concern.

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May 1, 1836

The U.S. House of Representatives adopts gag rules preventing discussion of antislavery proposals. The House repeals the rules in 1844.

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November 11, 1776

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September 11, 1776

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July 4, 1776

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October 19, 1765

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January 1, 1689

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December 1, 1641

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June 7, 1628

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June 15, 1215

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